Nickelodeon’s Classic Game Shows, Ranked

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(Credit: Nickelodeon)
‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ (Credit: Nickelodeon)

Now that we’re in a golden age of TV revivals — where such previously-cancelled series as Gilmore Girls to The X-Files are suddenly back with new episodes — nothing stays buried forever…not even old game shows. That’s why Nickelodeon has dug through its archives and unearthed the ‘90s favorite Legends of the Hidden Temple. But this isn’t quite the Temple that Nick fans remember, even though that talking head Olmec (Dee Bradley Baker) is still front and center. Instead of a new iteration of the game show, the network has instead turned Legends into a TV movie, where actors — rather than ordinary contestants — get to navigate booby-trapped laden obstacle courses on the way to finding great rewards.

Related: See New ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ Photos

We’ll admit it: our nostalgia button is tickled by the thought of watching a new generation of kids come face-to-face with Olmec. But to see Legends of the Hidden Temple in its original glory, you’ve gotta head over to YouTube, where clips of that series — along with other classic Nickelodeon game shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s — are readily available. We’ve ranked the network’s vintage pre-2000 series in the below list. Game on!

12) Make the Grade (1989-1991)
The thinking kids’ game show, Make the Grade was Nick’s version of Jeopardy! crossed with the classic board game Go to the Head of the Class. In a half-hearted effort to add some vintage Nick action to the proceedings, random “Fire Drills” would crop up requiring the egghead contestants to listlessly perform sort of physical activity. Listen, we love Jeopardy, but that’s not the kind of game show we tuned into Nickelodeon to watch.

11) Think Fast (1989-1991)
Speed was the name of this particular game, where contestants raced through rapid-fire challenges and puzzles at a pace that would flummox the Flash. At the same time, the rapid gameplay seemed largely intended to distract viewers from the blandness of the format. For better and for worse, Think Fast was like watching pretty much any game show on fast-forward.

10) You’re On! (1998-1999)
Long before Billy Eichner turned the streets of New York into a giant game show set with Billy on the Street, You’re On! host Phil Moore dispatched kids onto the Orlando boulevards to make passers-by compete in games and stunts for our entertainment. More fun than the challenges was the sight of the contestants enduring rejection after rejection from jaded citizens. Maybe they would have garnered more audience participation if they brought celebrities like Jon Hamm along.

9) Get the Picture (1991)
Basically a version of Wheel of Fortune with pictures in place of words, Get the Picture required contestants to connect the dots of a larger image until they could… well, get the picture. Livening up the gameplay was the occasional “Power Surge,” which would offer the chance to earn more money and more clues while host Mike O’Malley (yes, that Mike O’Malley) offered forceful encouragement. This was never a picture perfect game show, but it could provide some diversion on a slow afternoon.

8) Figure It Out (1997-1999)
Kids got the chance to mix it up with their favorite ‘90s Nick celebrities on the network’s homage to I’ve Got a Secret. These visiting stars would try to guess the secret talent of a contestant by posing them a series of “Yes” and “No” questions, and also take part in “Secret Slime Action” challenges to uncover more clues. Not the most exciting format, but Figure It Out is fun to revisit these days for the sheer novelty of seeing, say, a young All That-era Amanda Bynes competing alongside Adventures of Pete & Pete star, Danny Tamberelli.

7) Nickelodeon Guts (1992-1996)
Essentially a televised version of gym class, Guts pitted a trio of pint-sized athletes against a series of extreme sport games. How extreme? Professional stunt coordinators and stunt spotters were on hand for each challenge. If P.E. had been more like this, we wouldn’t always have been looking for excuses to cut class.

6) What Would You Do? (1991-1993)
Audience participation was not only encouraged, it was demanded in What Would You Do?, making it more like an improv comedy showcase than a straightforward game show. Double Dare host Marc Summers also helmed this show, and would help recruit members of the crowd to participate in strange stunts and potentially embarrassing situations… like being weighed on national television. Due respect to the hardworking Summers, but the real star of the show was pie: contestants faced pie slides, pie roulette and, last but not least, the pie pod, where they’d get pelted by a pie cannon. Basically, you’d never go hungry at a What Would You Do? taping.

5) Wild & Crazy Kids (1990-1992)
This competition series is notable amongst Nick’s game shows in that it actually got contestants out in the fresh air instead of keeping them confined on soundstages. It also allowed for whole teams of kids — instead of the typical game show duos — to compete in crazy versions of ordinary sports like basketball and soccer, as well wild adaptations of familiar games like Simon Says and Twister.

4) Nick Arcade (1992-1993)
It may look positively 8-bit now, but back in the early ‘90s, Nick Arcade was on like Tron. The main rounds featured head-to-head gameplay on a mixture of invented games like Brainstorm and Jet Jocks as well as actual arcade and console games such as Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and King of the Monsters. The winning team then got to go inside a video game, ducking, dodging and attacking while your power levels drop low. Sure, in reality, they were just jumping around in front of a greenscreen. But for those of us at home, it was like being teleported inside our NES.

3) Finders Keepers (1987-1989)
Finally, a game show where you could be rewarded for trashing your room. Sure, the “find the hidden object in the picture” challenges were always a little dull, but once contestants moved into the fake house to hunt for carefully concealed items, the furniture really started to fly. Best of all was the climactic Room-to-Room romp, where the winning team had 90 seconds to tear the entire house apart in search of extra prizes. Because on Finders Keepers, unlike in real life, you never had to clean up your own messes.

2) Legends of the Hidden Temple (1993-1995)
If we were voting purely on which Nick game show had the coolest set, Legends of the Hidden Temple would win hands down. Seizing its inspiration from the Indiana Jones franchise (before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came along and spoiled everyone’s goodwill), Temple’s elaborate obstacles courses resembled the theme park versions of archeological ruins. To be honest, the show’s intricate production design and mythology sometimes threatened to overwhelm the gameplay. But the ambition of its creative vision remains impressive: it’s a like Spielberg movie on a Nickelodeon budget.

1) Double Dare (1986-1993)
It’s only slightly hyperbolic to describe Double Dare as the Shakespeare of kiddie game shows. It’s certainly hard to think of a better format for a competition aimed squarely at tots, tweens and teens; not only did Double Dare enliven the standard Q&A round by incorporating the “dares go first” schoolyard tradition, but it also programmed challenges that hit that juvenile sweet spot between absurd and cool. And then, of course, there was the obstacle course, a thing of bizarre beauty that never failed to send the show out on a high note. We double dare you not to get sucked into a YouTube wormhole watching clips of obstacle course fails. But first, watch our Superfan TV host Khail Anonymous try/fail to complete the course:

The new Legends of the Hidden Temple movie airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon.